« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Merryman began eating fire amid the loud applause of his ruder audience.
“ Now doesn't that beat snap-dragon," cried he, “all to tinder? Don't be alarmed, young ladies, my heart 's already in a flame with your charms, and this is the way I feed the combustion ! Though no posture-master, I can put my tow in my mouth as cleverly as the best of em.”
After this feat with his tow, he turned to a be-rouged gentleman with a hat and feathers, a black velvet fly jacket, white pantaloons, and yellow boots, with a riding-whip in his hand.
Mister Master," said he. “Well, Mr. Merryman, and what-do-you--say?” said the other.
Why did the dun cow not know her tail when she saw it in the pond ?” “Don't-know-Mr.-Merryman."
Why, 'cause she had never seen it-before-to be sure,” replied the clown.
A laugh of course followed this solution of the query.
“ Now here's a puzzler," continued he. Why is a cabbage run to seed like a lover? Give it up? Because it has lost its heart!"
Another encouraging shout from the rustics succeeded.
“ What were the last words of the trumpeter when he was gored by the parson's bull? Why, blow the horns! to be sure, for that was in his vocation. I say, Gaffer,” said he, addressing a “ joskin ” in the crowd, whose mouth was extended from ear to ear with an awful grin of approbation, “ if you've cut your teeth of wisdom, can’st tell me what are the three domestic delights of a poor man on a cold day?" “ Noa,” replied the party. " What be they, ey ?”
Why, a nagging wife, the tooth-ache, and no chips to boil the pot withal !”
“ Bravo, Mr. Merryman!" exclaimed the “Master;' " you shall have a bowl of gooseberry fool.”
“One fool at a time, if you please,” cried Mr. Merryman. Pray can any other fool tell another fool what is the height of luxury? You or you—or you? None! then I'll elucidate your ponderosity, and dazzle the eyes of your intellectuality with the brightness of my intelligence. Know, then, that the height of luxury is--a tight boot on a July day with a sharp peg in the heel of it. Now, mend that boot if ye can, ye cobblers of conundrums !"
And he commenced capering among the dancers in the most agile and ludicrous manner, accompanied by the roars of his auditory. He certainly was a fellow of infinite humour, and I regret that my treacherous memory has let slip many bright specimens of his glittering nonsense.
At the conclusion of his Terpsichorean efforts he again presented himself, assuming and caricaturing the character of a candidate at an election.
“Men of Sussex !” said he, oratorically, sawing the air with his extended arms, “ a dissolution of the house having just taken place, I again have the honour of appearing before you to solicit the favour of your suffrages! and I firmly trust that the manner in which I performed my arduous duties on the last occasion I had the honour of serving you, will have sufficiently testified my heartfelt zeal for your
welfare and approbation. My principles are too well known to require me to pledge myself to the performance of my duties ; and yet, should you require it, behold! I am ready to be put up the spout' for your benefit; although, in tenderness, I ought to resist such a request, for you would never be able to redeem me, for, without vanity, I may say there's no duplicate of your humble servant! Gallant men of Sussex! I call upon you to support the fair.
“ Ladies of Sussex! 'tis your cause I advocate, and I deserve some support at your hands in gratitude, for all my life I have endeavoured to uphold the interests of the fair! Then come to the poll! Remember a fair is like a lady's ear-ring, there being only one in a year! and now's your only chance. Walk up! walk up! three pence is a qualification! Here's reform and liberality; why, 'tis nothing less than universal suffrage! Come, then, and lay down your half-crowns, your shillings, and your sixpences, and you shall have all the change you desire. Yes, you shall find us Radicals in our promises and true Tories in our performances !"
I felt that the show' deserved patronage, and yet must confess I had no inclination to mount the stage; I was, however, determined that the concern should not be a loser by my mauvaise honte, and had no difficulty in finding a representation of four deputies among the urchins in the crowd. I am happy to say that my example was liberally followed by many of the "genteeler folk.”
I now lounged along the range of cake and toy booths, anxious for the repetition of the merry tricks and quips, and quirks of our motley hero.
I had just yielded to the pressing instance of a smart to purchase a bag of the “best spice nuts” which she was “putting
for me, when the sound of a gong suddenly startled me, and turning hastily about, I observed that the performances were just over. I hurriedly threw down half-a-crown, and seizing my “ fairing," turned my steps eagerly to the chosen spot, fearful of losing a particle of Mr. Merryman's quaint and laughter-moving speech.
A young serving-lass was pushing and anxiously endeavouring to penetrate the mob, evidently in pursuit of some object.
“ Seeking for a lover, my dear ?” asked Mr. Merryman. “No; I've lost my sloe," pettishly replied the girl.
" A shoe !" said the clown: “ it must be a slipper, and a very shabby one, too, to desert such a pretty foot. Yes, rcally 'tis barbarous-nay, shocking-to slip from such a fair--and well-darned stocking!"
Mr. Merryman now began to “ hunt the slipper,” which he soon found, and presented to the blushing damsel. The platform was speedily cleared again, and the same evolutions were recommenced by the untiring company to the boisterous clang of cymbals, drums, and trumpets.
“ This is what I call life," exclaimed Mr. Merryman: “ cutting and shuffling is the order of the day! There they go in and out, like 80 many wriggling eels in a fish-basket; and that 's the way to make your way in the world now-a-days. Your straight-forward fool only runs his head against a post, and comes to a stand-still! Commend me to a knave!_Knaves are sharp blades, and honest men their handles ! Oct. --VOL. I.I. NO. CCII.
“ And pray, Mis-ter Merry-man-what-are-you ?" demanded the master, laying an emphasis upon every syllable and word.
“ A fool!" replied Mr. Merryman ;'“ and every fool is an honest man, and every honest man a fool, that's my philosophy.”
“ And pray, Mr. Merryman-what-am-I?" demanded the other. “ You're another!” “ Call me a foo! ?”
“To be sure," replied Mr. Merryman; " for if you were a wise man, you'd know yourself,' and have no occasion to ask questions!” Hereupon, spinning round upon one leg, à la pirouette, he snatched up a hoop bound with red cloth, and began iwisting himself through it, throwing it over his arms, legs, and head, with the most dexterous rapidity
“ That's what I call a 'round game,'" said he, breathless with his exertions, and offering it to his master, would you like to take a hand ?'" “No; go on.”
“Thank-ye,” replied he; “but if I go on, I shall go off for want of breath."
Disobey me, and I'll discharge you directly, Sirrah," said the master, with mock authority.
“That's just what I want, Mister Master.” “What, to be discharged ?”
“ Yes; that is to say, let off ! which is one and the same thing to a fool and a duck-gun!”
Here the indefatigable fellow again began capering among the corps dramatique, and at the conclusion, immediately commenced the following invitation to the crowd.
“Now my merry masters and mistresses all, walk up, and taste of the delightful banquet we have catered for your amusement. Here, tragedy, comedy, and farce, are combined to move you to tears, and win your smiles. Here the thin may grow fat with laughter, and the fat sup full of horrors, and dwindle to the size of a Kentish hop-pole! Come, then, and down with your dust ! only threepence. The only legitimate drama in the whole fair! All the rest are mere 'by-blows, and fathered by fools! Here you will find, not only the gold and glitter, but the gingerbread, good, spicy, and substantial. Allow me, Sir, to lend you a hand!” continued he, stooping to a wooden-legged sailor, who was
stumping’up the steps; "I would willingly lend you a leg to boot, had I one to spare.
Walk up, ladies, the front row is still vacant, and there you may not only see, but be seen. Now, farmers of Sussex, ye first of corn-cutters, put your best legs foremost. It always delights my heart to welcome the agricultural interest; they are all sharp and good-tempered blades. Raisers of crops, and crops of razors ! walk up, walk up, the room and the company' are both extensive.”
The booth was speedily filled, and I again sauntered from the spot, when one of those sudden showers so frequent in Brighton, drove me from the scene of noise, bustle, and rude merriment, and hailing the first'lly,'I drove home to my lodging, perfectly delighted with my eveniuy's entertainment.
On the morning after the conclusion of the Fair, I turned my steps towards the gardens. Most of the booths were dismantled, and many of the show people had packed up and departed. The Thespian establishment, too, had nearly completed its travelling arrangements. A long cart covered with the scenery and the paraphernalia of the drama alone remained, with its horseless shafts extended along the ground like a couple of bony arms waiting to embrace the lean ribs of the “hack” to transport it to the place of its next destination.
Several trunks were scattered over the path and green; and a man with sandy hair, deeply pitted with the small pox, was issuing his orders to his assistants, diligently applying his hammer, to secure the “properties.” He was in his shirt-sleeves, wore a pair of large corded, lightcoloured inexpressibles, dirty white cotton stockings, and high-low, heavy-nailed boots. He appeared the master of the concern, for he was ordering about him, and certainly in no very good humour.
“I hope,” said I, “that you have made a good harvest ?”
“ Pretty well, Sir, I thank you, considering the times,” said he; “but fairs are not what they used to be: the people fancy themselves so clever that we find it difficult to please them now-a-days. The merest clown now sets up for a critic, and fancies, because he can read, he has brains, and feels much more pleasure in finding fault with what he don't understand, than with being pleased with what he does.”
“Well, I am sure your clown' gave universal satisfaction,” said I; for my part I must confess I was infinitely amused by his exertions.”
" I'm sure I'm much obliged to you,” said he; “for the praise of the judicious few compensates us for many disagreeables. You are not, perhaps, aware, Sir, that you are now speaking to that'gifted individual'?” continued he, smiling.
I was certainly what the old women call thunderstruck' at this intelligence; and, no doubt, my stare of astonishment tickled the *Clown,' for he burst into a loud fit of laughter.
“Ah, Sir," said he, “it's a wonder what a difference a little whitewashing makes in a man!"
When my amazement had abated, I continued the conversation, and found, upon inquiry, that he was the real and sole proprietor of the
Though no beauty, I certainly discovered that he was no "ordinary” man, and proffering him a gratuity for the pleasure he had afforded me, I took my leave, delighted with my strange encounter with the First Fool of Brighton Fair.
ALFRED CROW QUILL.
On a drunken Town-Crier.'
MATHEWS AND BORALOWSKI.
“Wee Willie Grey, with his leathern wallet,
Wee Willie Grey."
And so Count Boralowski is gone to his short home! Good little man, he has died at a great age, demanding the regret of those who ever had an opportunity of seeing him in private life.
I am about to recount my slight acquaintance with him, conscious that, though my nothing of a name can have little interest with my readers, the personages I shall mention will find favour in many eyes.
In my first suit of dittos, covered with quadruple rows of sugar-loaf annoyances, I was taken, as a reward for not having committed my usual share of mischief, to see the famous dwarf; and I remember well, even at that tender age, being struck by the elegance of the small gentleman's deportment and unshow-like discourse, so different from the squeaking parrot-rote of Mr. Allen, then travelling with “ Lady Morgan,” both of whom I had seen at the last fair. These two very unpleasant pigmies were afterwards united ; but I am not aware if her ladyship retained her rank or resigned the title subsequently associated in our minds with a far higher order of celebrity. But I am wandering: the polish of the Polish Count delighted me. I was charmed with his interesting broken English, and in absolute raptures with his graceful manner of taking snuff; it seemed strange to see so small a thing indulge in a habit then only practised by grown persons.
To confess how many years ago it is since I first appeared “a forked thing” would be to let the world into the secret of my age, a matter of importance to a man not yet too old to propose to an heiress, or, " for a consideration,” visit St. George's, Hanover-square, with a widow.
Many years rolled over my head ; with a grateful recollection of the pleasure the charming little Count had afforded me, I was delighted to hear that so exquisite a specimen of man in miniature was still able to gratify hundreds by his presence.
In the summer of 1821 or 1822, my friend Charles Mathews asked me to pass a long day with him at Ivy Cottage; I gladly accepted his invitation, was received with the same cheering smile, the same warm hospitality as I had experienced on former occasions, but could not fail to observe an anxiety on the part of my host to interrupt the sincere expression of my happiness in again meeting his amiable wife.
“Of course, yes; glad to see you, 'sweet place," much improved," ‘your exquisite taste, my dear lady'—so everybody says, and what everybody says must be true; but we like you too well to expect compliments—besides I want you to come with me into the gallery, I've something to show you there that will delight you."
“A new Zoffany or a choice Harlow, I suppose ?”
"Not a bit; what you are going to look on is, in the language of the proprietor of the travelling theatre at Norwich, Bury, and thereabouts, *None of your shadows upon blankets, but the living work of —"" The sentence remained unfinished, his hand was on the handle of the